A few weeks ago I came across a post on my Facebook newsfeed for a new skincare brand that caught my eye. I clicked on the ad, did a quick scan of the website, and then headed back over to Facebook to keep scrolling through my newsfeed. A couple of days later, I saw another ad on my Instagram feed for the same brand, which I recognized immediately. Fast forward a couple of weeks to the morning I used up the last of my daily moisturizer, which I wasn’t really loving, so I knew I wanted to try something different. I remembered the product I kept seeing on social media, and how their skincare claims really resonated with me. I ventured over to YouTube to see what the beauty gurus were saying about it. Sure enough, there were plenty of product reviews for me to check out. Ultimately, I ended up on their website and made a purchase.
The marketer in me couldn’t help but think as I was checking out that this company totally nailed their marketing campaign. It was clean, consistent, personalized. It wasn’t in your face, annoying, or invasive. So where am I going with this...
Today’s multi-device, multi-channel world has had a significant impact on retailers, both online and offline. Consumers are using multiple devices and channels throughout their path to purchase, and they expect brands to be there at every step of the way.
Some are starting their research on their desktop computers before ultimately heading to the store to make a purchase. In fact, according to a recent Deloitte survey, 69% of consumers who plan to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday said they are planning to engage in this type of shopping behavior, which is referred to in the retail world as “webrooming”.
And then we have those that are more keen on “showrooming”, where they head to the store to touch, feel, and experience the product, but ultimately purchase the product online. In that same Deloitte survey, 46% of shoppers said they plan on engaging in “showrooming” this holiday season.
Others are using their mobile phones inside of brick and mortar stores to search product information, compare prices, and read reviews before putting a product in their cart and heading to the checkout.
Enter my favorite buzzword...omni-channel. Don’t let the use of “buzzword” fool you. Omni-channel marketing isn’t a trend or a fad, it’s a revolution. It’s marketing's response to the “always connected” consumer. Omni-channel marketing focuses on creating a cohesive experience for consumers across every touchpoint, regardless of device or channel.
Multi-channel marketing casts a wide net across multiple channels to help spread your marketing message. With this approach, individual channels are optimized with no regard for other channels. Banner ads are designed for websites, social ads are designed for social media. What’s missing here? There is no connecting of the dots between channels. A multi-channel approach can cause your channels to compete with one another (more on that below!), and creates a disconnected experience for the consumer.
Omni-channel marketing puts the consumer at the forefront of all marketing efforts, not the brand or the channel. It’s designed to facilitate a positive, personalized customer experience that is consistent and seamless across all channels and devices.
Many brands have mastered multi-channel marketing. The problem is that multi-channel strategies simply aren’t enough anymore. The good news? A solid multi-channel strategy is a great start. The next step is evolving that strategy into an omni-channel solution.
1. Establish a consistent voice
Defining and maintaining a cohesive look, feel, and tone across every single channel will give your brand a unified image. The foundation of a strong omni-channel approach is consistency. As a customer is greeted with the same marketing message across different channels, whether it’s on social media or on your website, they’ll start to establish a sense of familiarity with your brand.
Without that consistency, consumers won’t come to remember or recognize your brand. When your products are sitting right next to your competitors on a shelf or your product listings are positioned next to thousands of others on Amazon, brand familiarity is everything.
Train everyone on your brand identity and voice. Your customer service teams, sales reps, PR team, and copywriters must all be on the same page with your brand identity. Make sure they master it. Sales pitches, trade show booths, and product brochures should all maintain that same level of consistency that your brand strives for online and in-store.
2. Measure Everything
One of the biggest mistakes in multi-channel marketing is failing to see how one channel impacts another. If a consumer’s first touch point is a social media ad but their final touch point, the sale, occurs after clicking a paid search ad, who gets the credit for the sale? Usually the paid search ad. In the case of the skincare brand that won my business, who gets credit for that sale? Facebook? Instagram? YouTube?
Let’s assume this is a regular pattern, because realistically it is. Social media fills the top of the funnel and introduces the customer to the brand. But the customer isn’t ready to buy just yet. When they’re ready to purchase, they head on over to Google where they perform a branded search and click a search ad at at the top.
When you get your monthly reports on total sales by channel, you see that social media is eating up a lot of budget but not generating sales. Paid search is also spending a good portion of your budget, but the sales numbers are impressive. Easy solution right? Pull all of your social media advertising dollars and move them over to paid search. WRONG!
Do this and you’ll surely see your paid search ad sales impacted in a negative way. Why? Because your social advertising efforts played a significant role in establishing the brand awareness that ultimately led users to searching for your brand on Google. Cut the brand awareness initiatives and suddenly your branded searches will drop off, ultimately resulting in fewer sales.
The fact of the matter is that there is no way to fully track the entire customer journey across every touch point with 100% accuracy, 100% of the time. That being said, there are steps that can be taken to approximate value across channels (both online and offline). Just using attribution tools in Google Analytics is a huge step in the right direction. From assigning consumers unique cookies, to attribution modeling, to beacon technology, marketers are now one step closer to closing the gap on measurement shortcomings in an omni-channel world.
3. Create a Customer-centric Strategy
A multi-channel approach focuses on creating unique strategies for individual channels. Each channel is assigned channel specific goals and designed to provide a siloed customer experience. What this approach fails to address is that a single consumer isn’t married to one channel. Just as they’re navigating between devices, they’re also navigating between channels. Shouldn't your marketing approach take this into consideration?
Think of your campaign as a machine, and your channels as the components needed to keep that machine running flawlessly (and not the other way around). If one component is running with no respect for the others, your machine isn’t going to run as it should.
The omni-channel approach joins all channels together to create a single, cohesive experience for the customer. Your marketing should be about concepts and ideas, not channels. No matter where a consumer chooses to interact with your brand, they should be able to identify and connect with your brand. All of your marketing channels, whether online or offline, should be aligned around a common goal and theme.
Start with your personas. Use as much data as you can get your hands on to make sure they accurately portray your real life customers. Google Analytics, Amazon, and many retailers provide great reports on customer demographics. Write them, re-write them, send them to everyone for critique. Once you’ve finalized them, let them drive your marketing. Every single piece of your marketing strategy should be crafted around your personas; they are your customers after all.
Then, map out your customer journeys. Make sure your brand has a presence at every single point in that journey. And remember, just being there isn’t enough. Your presence along that journey must be cohesive, consistent, and memorable.
And finally, your marketing shouldn’t just be about selling your products. It needs to be about selling the experience, focusing on why your products exists and how they can fit into a consumer's life. What problems do your products solve? How do they make life easier or more fun? Your marketing campaigns should be centered around a unified theme, purchasing trigger, idea, or experience, not around your product.
“Customers are no longer buying products and services - they are buying experiences delivered via the products and services”
- Gregory Yankelovich, Customer Experience IQ
Now back to the skincare brand from the beginning of this post. Here’s why they totally mastered their marketing campaign, and earned my sale. They never sold me the product. They sold me the solution. It wasn’t about how great their moisturizer was, but about what their moisturizer could do for my skin. When I first encountered the brand, I wasn’t ready to make a purchase because I already had a moisturizer in my medicine cabinet. But, when I finally was ready to purchase, their brand was top of mind because I had been consistently exposed to it, I found them easily when I searched for them, and the experience had been an engaging and positive one. All along they knew I was part of their target market, even though I wasn’t ready to purchase when I was first exposed to them. A well executed marketing strategy makes my heart sing!
Omni-channel and multi-channel marketing are two very unique strategies that ultimately have the same goal - acquiring more customers. Both work to engage with consumers by leveraging multiple channels and touchpoints. The difference is that omni-channel marketing puts each touch point in a continuous circle, while multi-channel marketing puts each channel in its own straight line separate from the others. To put it simply, omni-channel marketing is elevated multi-channel marketing, or multi-channel marketing done right. Brands must make the shift to an omni-channel approach in order to keep up with the competition and drive increased revenue.